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AACTE Convenes First Special Education Teacher Shortage NIC

Teacher helping a disabled pupil at the elementary school

Faculty from 10 of AACTE’s member institutions convened in Washington, DC on November 22-23 for the first in-person meeting of the Networked Improvement Community (NIC) focused on reducing the shortage of the special education teachers. During the 2-day convening, nearly 40 NIC members came together to share and discuss the work happening at their institutions and their goals for recruiting more teacher candidates into their special education programs in the next 6 months.

Following the NIC model of the Carnegie Foundation’s for Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, the institutions set individual targets connected to the network’s collective aim statement and driver diagram, which serves as the NIC’s working theory of action. Over the summer, faculty from each institution were invited to participate in a book club lead by AACTE staff: Learning to Improve: How America’s Schools Can Get Better at Getting Better. This book serves as a foundational text for the NIC members in understanding improvement science and how to apply it to their work at their institutions.

Armed with this know-how, NIC members began small tests of change, called PDSA cycles, to better understand how they can recruit more and a diverse group of teacher candidates to their programs. During the November convening, NIC members also shared their experiences from their first PDSA cycles, identified areas for collaboration across institutions, and began to identify what kinds of data they plan to collect to measure their progress toward their institution targets and the collective NIC aim. Throughout the convening, faculty engaged in dedicated planning time with their institution teams as well as in cross-institution planning groups.

Many of the participants shared in their reflections at the end of the convening that they were heading back to campus with new ideas, new connections, and a clear plan for how to move the work forward. Members of the NIC will continue to connect virtually throughout the spring, and there will be an informal gathering during AACTE’s 72nd Annual Meeting in Atlanta in February 2020.

To see the list of 10 member institutions, learn about AACTE’s partnership with the CEEDAR Center, and explore more information about the NIC, visit the Reducing the Shortage of Special Education Teachers Networked Improvement Community section of AACTE’s website.

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Caitlin Wilson

Director, Program Improvement and Practice, AACTE